Whether you’re an expectant parent or a hopeful adoptive parent, you should learn the warning signs of an adoption agency scam. 

Adoption agencies are places to go when you’re either looking to place your child for adoption, or you’re looking into adopting a child. It’s vital to do your research on each adoption agency you’re looking into. You wouldn’t think it would be possible, but there will be agencies that will look to take advantage of you. In this article, I’ll discuss the red flags you may see if you’re a victim of an adoption scam, how agencies are taking advantage of you as an expectant parent or adoptive parent, and how to prevent it from happening. I’ll also talk about what you should look for in a reputable adoption agency. 

Red Flags of Adoption Agency Scams 

It’s crucial to know the signs of adoption scams in order to better prepare yourself when dealing with an adoption agency. First, we’ll go over the common signs to look for to see if an adoption agency is taking advantage of expectant parents, then for hopeful adoptive parents. 

For Expectant Parents: 

When facing an unexpected pregnancy, you’d expect that any adoption agency will help you and be trustworthy. But that’s not the case with all agencies. Some agencies only look after things that benefit the agency and will take advantage of the expectant parents’ situations. Here are some signs to look out for. 

  • Fees: 

Beware of agencies who charge an outrageous fee. Even if they promise you the best services possible and say that they’re legit, do your research before agreeing on anything the agency offers. 

  • Interested Adoptive Families:

 Another thing to look out for is the agency’s approach to finding an adoptive family. Did the agency do a thorough background check? Do you know what you need to know about this adoptive family? Is the agency discreet about you meeting the adoptive family? If any of these sound off, it’s time to find a new agency. 

  • Services that Change Rapidly: 

Another thing to look out for is when an agency promises you certain services, then changes them as soon as you sign up for them. For example, say you’re needing a place to stay as an expectant parent, the agency offers housing assistance, and you sign up for the service. But then the agency says that they have no housing available to you yet, and it’s been quite some time. The agency is pulling you along, promising you one thing, and not committing to that promise. Look out for agencies who constantly change services, or don’t provide them to you at all. 

  • Adoptive Parents Who Lie

If you have certain religious beliefs or values, the adoptive parents could lie and say that they believe what you do, just to adopt your baby. Once they meet you, adopted parents could promise an open adoption with you, only for you to find out that the adoptive parents either bail or change their plans. 

For Adoptive Parents

Believe it or not, it’s common for some adoption agencies to take advantage of adoptive parents. The most common way agencies do this is by having a birthmother take money from adoptive parents while not intending to place the baby for adoption. How does that happen? Read on to find out even more ways adoption agencies can take advantage of you. 

  • Pressuring You to Sign Papers: 

This is a huge issue because it shows that the agency doesn’t care how you feel or if you fully understand what you’re signing. 

  • Forcing You to Bond With a Child Before Finalization:

If the agency wants you to form an emotional connection to the child before the adoption becomes finalized, that’s a big sign that the agency is taking advantage of you.

  • Free or Low-cost Adoptions: 

A major red flag is an agency that offers little or nothing when it comes to adopting a child. Adoption isn’t that easy of a process. 

  • Sudden Changes

Although it’s common for an expectant mother to change her mind, to do so without warning from her or the agency is a major red flag that an agency is taking advantage of you. 

  • Expectant Parents Who Aren’t Even Expecting: 

It’s common for agencies to have expectant parents say they’re looking for adoptive parents to adopt their baby, only to be not even pregnant. 

  • No Proof of Pregnancy: 

If the expectant parents can’t provide proof of the pregnancy with doctor’s visits or ultrasounds, then the agency is trying to scam you. 

  • Expectant Parents Don’t Know You: 

If you find that when you meet the expectant parents, and they dodge every opportunity to get to know you, they’re not into knowing you as the potential adoptive parents. Or, if they’re upfront about an urgent plea for money from you, they’re trying to take advantage of you.

  • Expectant Parents Who Just Want to Bond:

 In some cases, expectant parents might want to form a bond with you because they don’t have an emotional support system at home. 

  • Lies About Alcohol Abuse: 

Drugs and alcohol have mild to severe effects on a baby. If an expectant mother is dealing with addiction and covers it up, that’s a big red flag.

  • Outrageous Fees: 

Adoption agencies might charge an application fee, among other fees. When facing each adoption whether domestic or international, there’ll be different fees for each.

  • Fraudulent Adoption: 

This happens when an agency isn’t fully honest with you about all the information about the child you’re looking into adopting. 

What Are the Common Fees That Hopeful Adoptive Parents Are Expected to Pay? 

Domestic Adoption 

  • Application fee: The application fee is the first fee that you’ll be expected to pay. 
  • Birth Mother Expenses: The most common birth mother expenses that an agency will require you to pay is counseling services, living accommodations, the birth mother’s attorney fees, and medical expenses that aren’t covered by insurance. 
  • Adoption Education Courses: Most agencies require potential adoptive parents to take educational adoption training classes so that the agency can see if you’re ready to adopt a child, and so you know what it takes to have a child placed in your home.  
  • Travel Expenses if you’re traveling outside of your state: If the adoption takes place in another state, you’d have to accommodate for other expenses such as lodging, food expenses, etc. 
  • Home Study: You’d have to pay for criminal background checks, fingerprinting, etc. 
  • Court costs: Depending on your state, the court fees you’ll be expected to pay are court documentations, attorney fees, and filing fees. 

International Adoption

  • Adoption Fees: 

The services included with international adoption fees are dossier assistance, communication with international agencies, and matching services, to name a few. 

  • Travel Expenses: 

The number of trips that you’ll have to take to the country that you’re looking to adopt the child from will be determined by that country or agency. You’ll also have to account for visas, passports, birth certificates, and citizenship costs. 

  • Medical Expenses: 

You will be expected to cover the child’s medical expenses. 

  • Translation Services: 

Unless you’re fluent in the language that you’re adopting a child from, you’ll need a translator when meeting the birth parents, and assistance with the documents that you’ll need to understand. 

  • Home Study and Education Services: 

International home studies are a little different because there are more training classes that you’ll be required to take. You’ll have to learn about the child’s culture and how to be fully prepared to raise a child that is from a different country. There are also more detailed financial requirements like your job status, income, and liabilities. 

Whatever adoption you’re pursuing, it’s crucial to get the agency’s adoption fees upfront. That way you have clear expectations on what expenses are legitimate, and which ones are not. 

What Are Some Questions to Ask an Adoption Agency?

Asking questions is a sure way to realize if an agency is taking advantage of you or not. There are many questions you can ask an adoption agency, but I’ll list a few of them. 

  • Do you have certain requirements for adoptive parents? 
  • Do your staff answer questions promptly? 
  • What type of classes do you provide?
  • Do you provide proof of pregnancy with expectant mothers?
  • What post-adoption services do you offer? 
  • How long has this agency handled adoptions? 
  • How much experience does your staff have with adoption? 
  • What are all of your fees? 
  • What if I don’t understand what your policies are? 

What Are Some Tips To Prevent Adoption Agencies Taking Advantage of Me? 

  • Tip #1. Fully Do Your Research on the Adoption Agency 

Try researching the agency on Google and social media for online reviews. 

  • Tip #2. Ask Questions

If you don’t understand something, or would like to learn more about something, don’t hold back on asking questions. Also, ask the potential adoptive families questions. 

Ask for advice from people who have been through adoption or that have been scammed before. 

  • Tip #4. Write or Record Everything

Document the important details, and listen to what the agency sees as important. Record important information that the expectant parents or adoptive parents are talking about. 

  • Tip #5. Realize When Things Are Too Good To Be True

As the saying goes: If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. 

  • Tip #6. Make Sure the Agency has High-Quality Education Training

With pre-orientation, education, and training, be sure you’re receiving the best and fully feel prepared when it comes to adoption. 

  • Tip #7. Understand Your Legal Rights

Whether you’re an expectant parent or an adoptive parent, it’s a great tip to have an attorney on hand for you to completely understand the legal process of adoption. 

  • Tip #8. Look for A Very Communitive Agency

 Make sure the agency you wish to work with is highly communitive with phone calls, emails, and in-person visits.  

What If You’re A Victim of An Adoption Agency Scam?

The time, money, and emotional toll that comes with the adoption process can take a lot out of both the expectant and adoptive parents. It’s even worse when you find out you were scammed. This should never be taken lightly, especially if a money transfer has already taken place. Start by reporting the agency for fraudulent adoption, and don’t withhold any information. Report to the FBI, your local police department, state attorney, or the National Fraud Information Center. 

What Makes A Good Adoption Agency 

With all of that said, what are the best adoption agencies, and how do you know if you chose the right adoption agency? Here’s an overview of what makes an agency great. 

  • Friendly, dependable, and trustworthy staff.
  • Positive reviews and feedback. 
  • Great services. 
  • 24/7 support. 
  • Supportive of all adoption options. 
  • Great advertising
  • Puts families first. 
  • Wants the best for children. 
  • Financial safety. 
  • Respectful to all involved in the adoption triad. 
  • References from families who have adopted from the agency. 

Being prepared and knowing the signs of an adoption agency scam is crucial for knowing if an agency is taking advantage of you. If you find yourself in an adoption scam or know someone involved in an adoption scam, let your local authorities aware of the agency. Adoption can be a trying time for anyone in the adoption triad. Don’t let these agencies scam you or the people you know. 

Kandice Confer